Discussion in 'Community' started by poor yorick, Aug 5, 2015.
I loved his mom! "I'd love to wake up one day and say hey everybody I'm Rihanna".
Isn't trans-racial implying that race is inherently tied to culture and that you can't identify culturally with a certain group unless you are racially the same as them?
No time to really respond to this now, but I will think about what you've said, and respond later.
Fair enough. I wasn't really talking about my situation, but I won't say I can't identify.
Here's a very interesting interview with Rachel Dolezal.
It's interesting. I can see the author's point, but at the same time, I think she's being terribly racist.
Unless by "she" you mean Dolezal, I'd like to have you explain. In the author's voice I heard much of my own, zeroing in on many of the points that make Dolezal's claims both objectionable and disturbing.
Yeah, it was pretty eye opening. I hadn't really looked into Dolezal, she's gone much further than I suspected.
I don't think the author (the interviewer) was really that great at taking her down, but really, she didn't need to be. Dolezal's words take her down all on their own.
Dolezal does indeed sound particularly dreadful in that interview. She was admittedly seen through the lens of an interviewer who didn't like her, but her self-defense appears to be nearly non-existent, even so.
I'll probably need to disengage from the conversation at this point, since I wanted to keep transgender and transracial issues separate, and emotionally it appears I can't. I recognize some of the arguments made by the interviewer in the Dolezal piece as arguments used by some cis women in their rejection of trans women, and it bothers me, I won't lie. On the other hand, the working theory is that trans women have something going on with them medically that validates their female identity, while Dolezal obviously does not have anything medical going on that causes her to feel African American.
The two issues are not really equivalent, but I can't help reacting as if they are. This is clearly my problem, and I doubt that arguing out the particulars with the JCC will help me with it. Nevertheless, I remain troubled.
If I might venture an opinion; it feels like we're so tied up in politics of identity that we are forgetting the important part is the identity, not the politics...
You shouldn't have to defend who you are to people*. I know we're not there yet, but so long as we keep insisting on drawing the boundaries before making the changes we're just going to be tribalist numpties.
* Except you Wocky. Because the Turing Test exists for our protection.
What do you mean by this? Rather, how does this relate to the Dolezal situation?
I take back what I said about "terribly racist". It's not. I reread the piece and realised I'd remembered it wrongly. It's just a bit racist.
That tone is exactly why I will not.
Well it's tied into the part about the boundaries.
The controversy as I understand it, is a woman who is probably whiter than I am, wanting to and identifying as black and the impact that has to the black community. Specifically, the way it disempowers black people; the ugly stain of cultural appropriation, and the nasty undercurrent of paternalism insofar as a white person being an NAACP chapter head - "of course the whites will save blacks from themselves", that sort of thing.
If we'd stopped caring about drawing boundaries, protecting fiefdoms (i.e. "if we give away this much, the kingdom of Whitetopia will be smaller!") and finding stupid reasons to other, then we wouldn't be in a position where a person chosing to identify as black was problematic and insulting. However, society's made so many wrong turns at this point that we're not past the boundaries stage so, her self-identifed "blackness" (again, more white than me) is a problem in that it is assumed, not innate. It comes with baggage.
I'm not suggesting we're even close to that point yet where it will shortly not matter. Those who have agency and privilege will double down to protect it. But, from my perspective, it shouldn't matter what anyone choses to identify given innate equality between races, genders, and hetero/non-hetero sexual preference (Sorry yorick, I cannot do the term "cis" as that's just not how the language works).
I suspect Wocky we both agree Dolezal's identification is tied to a number of systemic issues which makes it equal parts politically and culturally inappropraite and insensitive. My point is more the futility of all of it; we should be trying to focus on who we are, not what.
Ender: The NAACP element is just one more ridiculous aspect atop everything else. But there have been whites on the senior executive board of the organization since its inception, and certainly there have been white chapter heads before. The main problem with Dolezal is her claim to be black, not her job or her social activities.
Watto: I don't know what tone you mean. I sincerely apologize if it came off as aggressive. I do want to hear your perspective. It would be one thing if I can understand but simple don't agree with a viewpoint, but here I don't even feel like I have a frame of reference to know what you mean.
I'm sort of tempted to post the 17th century quote by the guy who was incensed by singular "you" as opposed to "thou." For him, that's not how language worked either. But it doesn't really matter. So long as being trans isn't contrasted with being "normal" or "real" or something else awful, use what terminology you like.
Yes, I said as much Wocky.
My point was, in an ideal world, that shouldn't matter.
Apologies. I misread your original post. But I still don't understand your point; or perhaps I fundamentally disagree with it.
What Dolezal is doing isn't wrong just because of the legacy of cultural appropriation. It is wrong because it is a present instance of cultural appropriation, and would be even if there had never been another in the entire history of mankind. I don't think there's a time when this should be "okay" to do.
That said, it's perfectly alright for people to embrace and immerse themselves in other cultures. I think it's a good exercise. But it has nothing to do with claiming you are literally a part of another ethnic group.
Thanks Wocky, I appreciate it.
The thing is: I see another way for race relations, but on here I fear being shouted down with claims that I don't understand American race relations.
And anyway ES says it much better and much more reasonably than I ever could. Particularly:
The reason I balked at the piece (apart from it being a hatchet job, which is never proper and may be unfair because Dolezal seems a bit dim-witted and in any case well-meaning) is because of this threads' topic. The author gives white people no quarter; I fear that, if it was up to her, white folks couldn't even be playing the blues. While it is my contention that it's the barriers between cultures that should be broken down... not just between American black people and American white people; between all cultures. I basically wonder: "why is cultural appropriation a thing?". I don't see the value of guarding a culture and disallowing outsiders to borrow elements. The person doing the disallowing - in this case, the author - who do they think they are, speaking for the whole culture? By doing that, aren't they essentially being racist? There is always the option of shrugging it off. Nobody would have been hurt if Oluo just shrugged off Dolezal. But she chose to actively take a stand on all the ways Dolezal reaches out. Not only that, she hammers on the differences between black and white cultures.
- Dolezal looks really, really white. She looks like a white woman with a mild suntan, in box braids—like perhaps she'd just gotten back from a Caribbean vacation and decided to keep the hairstyle for a few days "for fun."
- lily-white town
- Dolezal had changed her name to Nkechi Amare Diallo. My jaw dropped in disbelief.
- By the time I boarded a plane to Spokane, which is a one-hour flight from Seattle and is near the border with Idaho, a state that's almost 90 percent white, I was half sure that this interview was my worst career decision to date
- I don't know how many times a white person has told me that they don't care if I'm "red, green, blue, or purple" when they are trying to explain to me just how "not racist" they are—I've lost count. I do know that I've rolled my eyes every time.
- Perhaps that itself was the secret to the power of the Dolezal phenomenon—the overwhelming whiteness of it all.
She does make a good point as well, which is the overall point she wants to make:
Dolezal opens herself up to be treated as black by white society only to the extent that they can visually identify her as such, and no amount of visual change would provide Dolezal with the inherited trauma and socioeconomic disadvantage of racial oppression in this country.
But it appears the interviewer has lost track of actual solutions for racial oppression. I think one would be: live and let live. Another one would be: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Why do people of colour have to present solutions when they identify racial oppression, though? On that same note, one writer articulating their take on cultural appropriation should not be taken as a black person speaking on behalf of all black people everywhere.
And the Golden Rule's not really a solution, either. It operates on the assumption that all people from all cultures want to be treated the same way... and they clearly don't.
It does when there is baggage involved.
However, isn't the point of identity that it's innate to the individual? It gets muddled a bit but I don't think it's that controversial to state in an ideal world, a white person identifying as black is not an issue (because in that ideal world, any systemic bias is non-existant).
I think as well you have to consider the role in which our being immigrant societies affects identity too. I identify culturally as more British than Australian; and ethnically as Dutch. There is no issue with this largely because neither group have been disenfranchised in a wholesale and uncaring fashion.
I agreed with you she is - that is, present tense - appropriating a culture and that given the current dynamics she's wrong. My point was never to contest that; it was to argue we've become so entrenched in this battle around drawing base lines of respect and equality that what could be seen as an esoteric and strange choice ("yeah, ok, I get you think you're black but come on. So white.") is instead emblematic of the problems around race and culture.
And also a raging narcissist.
The fact that she's got Andy Warhol-inspired prints of her own face on the wall behind her is a big red flag that she's not in her right mind.
I think the problem with Dolezal is that her ignorance constitutes a fundamental spit/slap in the face for all black people who have suffered at the hands of systemic racism in the US. It's absolutely ****ing absurd that a white woman can pretend to take on the identity of being a black woman in the US when she has not experienced from birth what that actually means in terms of social, political, and economic disadvantage.
I've worked with Aboriginal people here in Australia for many years and I see Australian versions of Dolezal all the time- people who think because they have immersed themselves in the plight and cause, they are for all intents and purposes Aboriginal themselves. It's just ****ing silly. We white people, even those who stand with black people, to the down and out redneck white trashers, will never, and can never, truly appreciate or understand what it means to live in a society where you are the target of such deep rooted and systemic racism and hatred. It simply permeates every fibre of your being. It is not possible to 'walk a mile' in the shoes of a black person in the US (or Australia for matter) unless you are in fact a black person and have actually experienced what it actually means to be regarded by social norms as belonging to an inferior/dangerous/ sub-set category of human being.
LostOnHoth I agree with you.
Disturbingly, your post is also mad libs for a cisgender person speaking to a trans woman. Replace certain key words (racism with sexism, or black person with woman for example), and it's basically the same message. Replace 'Dolezal' with 'Jenner', even.
Most the public seem unwilling to educate themselves as to the difference. You know that satirical video posted above, with the black guy saying he's a 30-something white dude in Colorado? There are comments with quite a few upvotes (one with 100 at least) using that as a comparison to clinical gender dysphoria.
Race is determined by your genetic lineage. Sex/gender in the brain are determined in the womb... be it one or the other, or some of both.
I guess my point is... I don't support transracial... ism. Because trans rights are already having a hard enough time getting off the ground, and I don't want someone being supportive of a transgender person for the exact same reasons they would support this white gal calling herself black. It feels wrong.
Just a few thoughts (I hope this doesn't offend anyone):
My take is that while 'race' is entirely unimportant genetically, it's important to understand socially that different 'races' are treated differently, even if its on a subconscious level. It's simply acknowledging the primal instinct that human beings act in a prejudiced way to superficial differences. Given this primal baggage trans-racialism is, while I suppose a valid way to transform your appearance, insensitive given the extreme impact these differences have had and continue to have upon people. This is completely different to gender dysphoria - one is essentially wanting to have a different skin colour and the other is fundamentally wanting to change your social identity. Race is an identity that we would eventually be like to dissolve (i.e. a true colourblind world), while gender identity is engrained and essential to society. In other words gender identity, as far as I understand, is important on a fundamental level. Race, on the other hand (while important at this point in time) is entirely superficial to who the person is.
On cultural appropriation - I think it's important, firstly to remove race from the equation. Culture is the norms and customs you grow up with that inform your identity, no matter your race. That's why you can have a 'black' German, a 'white' Korean, etc, etc. People are far too interested with appearance. If a white person grows up in a Iranian household they are culturally Iranian (although still acknowledge racial prejudices and be conscious of it; if a black person grew up in a Russian household they are culturally Russian; and if a black person grew in an Italian-American household hold they are culturally Italian-American (although racially still African-American). Basically I'm suggesting that no-one 'owns' a culture based upon their race - which I think is the implication many are mistaking making (not here but elsewhere). With respect to appropriation I think people should be conscious of those aspects of cultures which are important and respect them accordingly (such as Native American headdresses) however those of lesser importance (or those which have been developed independently in various cultures), such as dreadlocks, can treated less sacredly.
While I do agree with you, I have to point out that neither African or American are actually races.
Fair. I guess 'black'?
I suppose it depends on what part of Africa the person is descended from. I work with teams of Archeologists and Geneticists, this is a discussion I hear pretty frequently.